Innovative stem cell research is being conducted by mesothelioma specialists at the Pacific Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. There are hopes that the novel approach may be able to provide new hope for those suffering from this most-serious of asbestos-related diseases, as well as for other forms of cancer including lung cancer and cancers of the immune system.
Successful results could have far-reaching implications for future mesothelioma treatment, and physicians at the center have hopes that it will eventually eliminate the need for damaging treatments such as radiation therapy and the use of chemotherapeutic drugs.
Stem cells have gotten a great deal of attention for their tremendous potential in the treatment of a variety of diseases, but little work has been done in terms of treating mesothelioma, an always-fatal form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma is particularly difficult to treat because it remains latent in the body for such a long time following exposure; it often takes several decades for the disease’s symptoms to present, leaving physicians with few options because the tumors have advanced to such late stages.
The hope of the mesothelioma specialists is that by utilizing mesenchymal stem cells that come from sources including fat tissue, bone marrow, and the placenta, therapeutic proteins can be delivered directly to areas where mesothelioma tumors have been removed but residual cancer cells remain.
Since the body doesn’t view stem cells as being invasive or foreign, they have a higher potential for success in the delivery of effective cancer therapies that will kill remaining mesothelioma cells,. These cells often grow back and metastasize to other parts of the body. Using stem cells as the method for delivery of gene therapy is groundbreaking work that could provide real solutions and enhanced survival rates for mesothelioma patients.
The initial testing of the stem cells, which is being done under the supervision of renowned mesothelioma specialist Robert Cameron, will be done in the laboratory, utilizing special 3-D models of multicellular tumor spheroids.
Stem cell use has already been being investigated by the center for the treatment of cardiac diseases, as well as degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.